Making a difference, one step at a time.

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Anti-racism and inclusion
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The struggle again racism is ideological in nature, as is closing one’s eyes to racism, tolerating it or calling those who denounce it ideologues. Fighting racism requires courage, the courage to seek to build a better world.

At the midpoint of my term as special advisor for anti-racism and inclusive excellence, the work we’re doing is more and more relevant to groups within the uOttawa community. Anti-racism and inclusive excellence are more readily discussed and  faculty officials, program chairs and service units are reaching out to me for networking, consultation, curriculum revision and advice.

This is significant not only for our team, but for the University, as we work to re-make frameworks with equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), anti-racism and anti-oppression strategies as their foundation. Through outreach and ongoing consultations with students, staff, associations and clubs, we’ve been able to bridge gaps that might otherwise have gone unnoticed.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who’s contributed thus far and list some of the achievements and highlights from the working groups and other initiatives over the past six months.

Along with Professor Steffany Bennett, uOttawa’s special advisor,  diversity and inclusion, we have completed our second round of meetings with the faculty EDI teams. We had the chance to present data on the student experience, promote upcoming anti-racism and anti-oppression initiatives and address faculty-specific needs and obstacles to achieving their goals.

I’m confident that all faculties are now ready to be more diverse and to integrate “inclusive excellence” in their plans. I would like to take this opportunity to remind each of you to participate in “Count Me In” campaign, which anonymously collects data to help us better serve the needs of our community and instil sustained cultural change.

All four working groups are now active: 1) EDI in Research, 2) Student Experience, 3) Employment Equity, and 4) Pedagogy. They’re working to have their Phase One action-oriented reports by September or October.

As for employment equity, we know that inclusive excellence on campus goes beyond self-identification in hiring processes. Yes, BIPOC representation is an integral part of this equation, but we have to focus on belonging, retention and building a real community of knowledge as well.

I believe that meaningful outreach and careful consultation with our community will lead to long-term, meaningful cultural change. Laying this foundation has been a focus for me as special adviser.

The continued work of relevant organizations, along with regular policy review and sustainable resources, will build on this foundation, making the change more engrained within our culture and informing future decision-making. It can start with something as simple as a relationship to language and word choice that shows our empathy, honesty and virtue as a people-based institution.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the impact that COVID-19 has had on all of our students, particularly our international students.

I can only imagine how difficult it has been adjusting to so much change in such a short amount of time, and the impact it has had on mental health. I would like to personally offer my office as a safe space for racialized and international students seeking advice and resources. During these tumultuous times, we must remain strong, both for the communities we represent and for those with whom we stand in allyship.

Boulou Ebanda de B’béri
Special Advisor, Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence